In 2016, Pokémon Go drew millions of individuals around the world into the streets to ostensibly play a game that simultaneously familiarized them with location-based services and augmented reality (AR) technology. 

What was once a gimmick in apps such as Snapchat and Instagram to add real-time special effects, transformations or filters to pics – bunny ears, anyone? – is now big business. 

AR has been on the radar of developers and marketers since 2017, when with a view to making the technology go mainstream, Apple announced its augmented reality framework. Called ARKit, the framework made it easier to develop apps for iOS apps and games. Consequently, the options available to brands have exploded.

Total spend worldwide on AR as well as virtual reality (VR) is expected to have topped USD 18.8 billion in 2020, an increase of 78% over 2019. This is set to rise considerably through to 2024, reaching USD 72.8 billion.1 Consumer mobile AR experiences spending alone is expected to rise from USD 1.38 billion in 2020 to USD 1.93 billion in 2021, before climbing to USD 4.18 billion by 2024.2

Brands as diverse as Gucci and Ikea are using AR technology to enhance their user experience with virtual trials.

Not surprisingly, AR has especially gained traction with beauty and furniture brands as people saw what filters could do to faces. Beauty brands such as Ulta were some of the first adopters of AR. L’Oreal ModiFace develops custom AR hair, cosmetics, and jewelry apps for brands like Amazon, Sephora, and Estée Lauder. Perfect’s YouCam’s 3D face scanning enables virtual makeovers. Samsung’s Bixby Vision uses ModiFace’s platform to let users try on makeup from Sephora, CoverGirl, and Laneige.3

Gucci let customers see what their Ace sneakers would look like on their feet, using technology developed by Wannaby, a Belarus-based startup, whose Wanna Kicks app also showcases other sneaker brands such as Nike, Adidas and Allbirds. Nike’s app can also measure customers’ foot sizes. AR has been a part of Gucci’s marketing mix before. The brand offered a customization service for select sneakers, bag,s and clothing items by equipping stores with a tool that let customers point an iPad or iPhone camera at a real product available in-store, personalize it and then see it in a real-world setting.

Snap, the maker of the Snapchat app, is looking to AR to make its platform profitable and commerce-oriented. Snap said it will be investing in more features to drive customer engagement and as an advertising tool4. Companies such as Target and Dior even have profiles on Snapchat.

Finally, Ikea has offered AR as part of their in-app experience since 2014 but their Place app takes it up a notch with users able to render digital renderings of their furniture in their living room. 

At this point though, while most brands are using AR the way movies use special effects – to enhance the user experience – most brands can’t definitively point to how much AR results in sales. Ulta says they look at AR as a way to ensure brand loyalty5

Regular fashion brands haven’t embraced AR as much because there are many ways clothes can look on a person depending on their body shape. ASOS is one of the few brands that have with its See My Fit function allowing users to visualize a dress on 16 virtual models between sizes 4 and 186

The future of AR is, to put it mildly, bright. Snap, which made the concept of filters commonplace, is betting on smart glasses, but these are first aimed at developers and creators7. Facebook and Apple are also expected to debut smart glasses for consumers in the next few years.

Besides clarifying business objectives and goals, brands looking to AR tools should choose carefully the kinds of AR tools as well as their licenses, and make sure they are compatible with the devices and operating systems that are in play.

What kinds of AR tools can you choose from? 

  • Location-based tools use GPS or position-detectors to determine current location, then adjust the environment and create objects in it. 
  • Marker-based tools are based on image recognition and the more advanced they are, the better they are able to detect 3D markers and real-life objects. 
  • Superimposition-based AI where objects are overlaid onto a real environment. One good example is IKEA’s Place app. 
  • Projection-based AR are the simplest type of AR and just project holograms onto a surface. 
  • AR codes use the basic idea of QR codes to add interactive content to the world around you. Amazon’s Augmented Reality App, for example, allows you to scan the QR codes on their packing boxes for interactive, shareable experiences.

At BORN, we pride ourselves on human-centered design. If you would like to know more about our capabilities in augmented reality and other forward-looking innovation, click here.



1.  VR and AR market size, Statista,

2. Consumer mobile augmented reality (AR) experiences spending worldwide from 2019 to 2024, Statista,

3. Gucci’s iOS app lets you try shoes on remotely in AR, 26 June 2019, VentureBeat,

4.  How Snap aims to turn augmented reality into a monetization machine,,

5.  Despite advancements, AR struggles to take off in retail, Modern Retail, 22 Jan 2020,

6. Asos is using AR to promote and sell fresh products in lockdown, The Drum,

7. Snap Plans Hardware Push With AR Spectacles, Drone, The Information, 30 Mar 2021,